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Rescue operations in Chamoli to continue till last victim reached, says NDRF commandant

The NDRF commandant also said the muck-clearing exercise at Tapovan tunnel may take months, if not a year.

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Tapovan: Amid fading hopes of the survival of those who went missing after a glacier disaster in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district 10 days ago, NDRF Commandant PK Tiwari on Tuesday said search-and-rescue operations will go on in the flood-hit hydel project sites till the last victim is reached.

Asked about the chances of survival of those missing or trapped, the NDRF commandant said he cannot say anything with confidence but miracles do happen.

“We found a survivor in Himachal Pradesh even on the 10th day of a similar tragedy. There are miracles. But there are lakhs of metric tonnes of sludge in the tunnel. However, as a soldier and a rescuer, I can only say the operations will continue till the last victim is reached,” Tiwari told PTI.

Describing the ongoing rescue operations at a tunnel of the damaged Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) as unique, he said the muck-clearing exercise may take months, if not a year.

“The tunnel is four-km long. We have reached about 160-165 metres inside it and have to go beyond that. Sludge-clearing through a tunnel, which took eight to 10 years to be built, may take months, if not a year,” he said.

On drilling a hole in the lower tunnel parallel to the intake adit tunnel, from where bodies are being recovered since Sunday, Tiwari said it was punctured in the hope of locating the trapped with the help of a camera, as vaccum was expected because of the presence of some vehicle like a Bolero or a Scorpio car inside the tunnel at the time of the avalanche.

But it was realised later that the tunnel, where 25-35 people were feared trapped, was also badly choked with sludge.

The rescue operations have to be suspended for a while whenever a body is found so as not to cause further harm to a decomposed body, Tiwari said.

However, he said the rescue operations at Raini, where a smaller hydel project was nearly demolished in the avalanche, were nearing conclusion.

“Since the start of the operations in Raini, our two teams have recovered 12 bodies. We are trying to reach a patch where villagers tell us there could be people. We will have the entire project site scoured by the end of the day,” the NDRF commandant said.

He said considering the pace at which the huge volume of muck and slush hurtled down following the glacier burst in the Rishiganga river, it must have flown down bodies till Rudraprayag.

Also read: 2 more bodies recovered from Tapovan tunnel in Uttarakhand, 146 still missing


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